Viewsday

Analysis, discussion and opinions by members of Newsday's editorial board.

Akst: Signs of climate change (or, if you can't stand the heat, get off the planet)

Bambino Ramirez cools himself down while washing cars

Bambino Ramirez cools himself down while washing cars at Bethpage Car Wash. (July 18, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

Heat records continue to tumble; last month was the hottest ever recorded in the continental United States. Indeed, the first seven months of 2012 were the warmest ever in this country.

The latest findings are part of a larger trend. As NASA points out, "nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000."

But it's not just the heat, it's the extremity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintains something called the U.S. Climate Extreme Index, which goes back to 1900. The index measures various indicators of extreme weather, including drought, hurricanes and very high or low temperatures. The index, expressed as a percentage, averages 20 percent. In July it was 37 percent. And for the first seven months of the year it was 46 percent, beating the record set in 1934. The Associated Press quotes climate scientist Michael Mann saying, "This would not have happened in the absence of human-caused climate change."

Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief of NOAA, said it's particularly striking that the first seven months this year have been the hottest ever. This is more than just natural variability, he says: "Global warming from human activities has reared its head in a way that can only be a major warning for the future." 

Pictured above: Bambino Ramirez cools himself down while washing cars at Bethpage Car Wash. (July 18, 2012)

Tags: Global warming , climate change , hottest July ever recorded

advertisement | advertise on newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday